Judging the Abyssinian Cavy - American Cavy Breeders Association



Judging the Abyssinian Cavy - American Cavy Breeders Association
Judging the Abyssinian Cavy
by Robert Spitzer
The Abyssinian is the most difficult of the breeds to judge. This is
because there is so much to look at, especially finer points of what
separates very good, good, average, and fair to poor. In most
breeds, the judge is basing his decision by feel and visual. The
balance of the two is fairly even. However, the Abyssinian is
primarily a visual breed. The eye must be trained in what to spot.
Because there is so much to the breed, it takes time and training to
gain that discerning judge’s eye. This is also the one breed where
there much more variation in judges’ decision. An Aby may win
breed in Show A and then fare very poorly in Show B. This
confuses exhibitors to no end, and it is also frustrating to the two
judges, who may be left thinking, “How could we be so far apart?
Is there something I missed on an animal?”
Advice for anyone wanting to become a judge is to put
their hands on as many Abys as possible. It greatly helps to raise
the breed; however, it is not practical for anyone to raise all thirteen
breeds. The solution is to seek out the top breeders and judges who
have the best handle on the breed. Work with them one-on-one.
Attend judge’s conferences. Watch the judging of Abyssinians at
shows. Ask many questions. Probably the most difficult aspect of
How has being a judge helped you
become a better Abyssinian breeder
and exhibitor?
As a judge, I am able to see Abyssinians from around the
country. Seeing many top quality Abys gives me an idea of what
areas I need to work on to improve my herd. Also seeing them
helps me see that it is possible for the Abys to develop the
qualities. One example is I have been having problems with a flat
collar. Being able to see and analyze cavies from exhibitors, I was
able to see it is possible to bring the collar up to it's correct
structure. I have been working on this for a couple of year's and the
work has started to pay off.
One other area that helped me change how I pick my
replacements was when I judge at a show, the Abyssinians I would
pick for the top awards would be the ones that had the best balance
of rosette and ridge alignment. I used to focus mostly on the rosette
quality and alignment in my herd since there were more points on
rosettes. Since I started judging, I started looking for balance in the
placement and ridges. This is especially important now that the
standard will be changing so that rosettes and ridges will have equal
Dana Kolstad
judging the Aby is deciding on and then
explaining why one is placed over the
other, especially in close-competition
How the judge handles the
Abyssinian makes a difference too. The
emotions in Abyssinians are easily aroused.
So the goal of the judge is to minimize
them. If you handle the Aby wrong on the table, you mess up the
ridges, pull out hair, or you might even get bit! Follow a few
basics, and everything ought to go more smoothly.
Is judging the Abyssinian really this dangerous? As with
any breed, it could be since Aby boars might fight if provoked.
Judges often run two or three boars on the table at the same time to
compare their rosettes and ridges. These boars smell each other as
well as the scent of fifty other boars and sows. Boars are further
stimulated by the judge’s handling, who is trying to get them to
move just right to see their strengths and weaknesses. What works
best is to keep boars separated if they become agitated. Don’t
handle them roughly as this quickly makes them very aggressive,
and keep fingers away from chattering teeth! Honestly, it is rare the
judge will be bit if they take basic common sense precautions.
After taking it out of the show pen, look at the Aby
first, check for disqualifications, next straighten the
ridges, and then walk it on the table to inspect.
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 30
To begin judging
bring each out of the
coop by putting my
and lifting up and
next set the pig
down on the table.
This keeps all the
ridges in pristine
shape. Then take a
first look at the Aby
in its natural state
before ruffling the
coat checking for
After checking for
disqualifications, set
the Aby back onto
the table, straighten
the ridges, and let it
walk for a second or
two. All ridges will
then pop back into
Sage Abyssinian Advice to All Judges
Properly posed Abyssinian, Best of Breed at 2006 ARBA Convention
place and the judge will once again have a good look at its natural
display of rosettes and ridges. Do no fix a fault, fix a fault, and then
fix the fault again and again until it is no longer there. Yes, the fault
really is there! Rather, straighten the ridges, walk the pig, and then
check for faults.
Basically, handle the Aby as little as possible when
walking it on the table. Tap it a little to get it to move in the right
direction, but more aggressive and heavy handling will get it riledup. Running several aggressive boars at a time will probably result
in a fight. If one or two are becoming too uppity, set them back in
the holding pen and work with one at a time.
NOTE: Italics is wording from 2006-2010 ARBA Standard of
Perfection, Abyssinian standard, pages 229-230.
Abyssinians are shown in six groupings:
Beige, Black, Chocolate, Cream, Lilac, Red, Red-eyedorange, and White
Any other Solid: Dilute Solid, Golden Solid, and Silver Solid
Agouti: Dilute Agouti, Golden Agouti, and Silver Agouti
Marked: Broken Color, Tortoise Shell, Dalmatian, Dutch,
Himalayan, and Tortoise Shell & White
Brindle and Roans are the most common varieties in the
Abyssinian breed followed by probably Blacks, reds, and then
Tortoise Shell & White and brokens. However, variety numbers
range from region to region, and there is renewed interest in other
colors, golden agouti for example.
TYPE – Points 10:
Abyssinians are to have medium body length, and plenty of depth to
the shoulders and hindquarters. The limbs are to be well formed
and closely set, without narrowness.
To judge the type, gently squeeze the shoulders,
midsection, and then hips. Don’t run the hands down the top and
sides such as when judging the American. This flattens the ridges.
In my view, the most difficult breed to judge is the Abyssinian.
Surely cases can be made to award other breeds the DIFFICULT
TO JUDGE label, but the Aby has so many qualities (rosettes,
ridges, collar, texture, shape, condition, etc.) to assess and ponder
over before a judge can come up with a sensible decision.
Difficulties in evaluating this breed causes even experienced judges anguish from time to time. For those fanciers starting
their judging career, this breed can be a nightmare, especially if the
new judge has never had ‘hands-on’ experience raising the breed.
On the other side of the coin (or table in this case), nothing
is more frustrating for serious breeders of Abyssinians than having a
good specimen poorly evaluated, resulting in an animal exhibiting
less quality being given a higher placing. Top quality Abys are few
and far between – bloody rare indeed. To have your efforts go unrecognized is very disconcerting at best.
Hopefully, experienced breeders will help new judges
learn about the breed. I have learned much (and still pick up tips)
from ‘masters’ of the various cavy breeds… One thing that every
judge should keep in mind is that there is always more to learn.
Nobody can ever know everything about every breed.
And, probably the worst thing an exhibitor can do is heap
stress on the judge by talking out of turn about the job they are doing. Though mistakes might be made, remember that he/she is trying their best. Politely, after the show, if a serious mistake in your
view has been made, chat with the judge and discuss with an open
mind both points of view. Don’t forget that even you, an experienced exhibitor/breeder, could be the one who is wrong! Also, remember in some instances there might be no right or wrong answer,
just an honest difference of opinion.
Most of the qualities a judge needs to do a good job on Abys
are the same that are needed to do a good job on any breed.
A systematic consistent plan when looking at animals. Set a
routine for examining the cavy and stick to it. Be thorough
but remember you have time constraints to deal with; your
exhibitors don’t want to be at the show room until 8 P.M.
An ability to call the standard as written. Call the standar d
you are being paid to judge. Leave your personal likes and
dislikes behind you. If you feel strongly enough that your
views are better than those written in the standard, then
contact the Standards Committee Chairperson.
A decisive but not a cocky attitude. One of the wor st things
a judge can do is to leave exhibitors with the impression
that they know it all. Refer to the standard if you need to;
there is no law against referring to your standard during
judging. However, when you do make a decision and give
your comments, try to come across like you believe in
what you’re saying. Don’t sound like you are not sure of
yourself or your own abilities. It is a fine line to walk indeed.
Diplomacy. Even when giving negative r emar ks, do so in a
constructive, non offensive manner. Be truthful but do it
in a nice, tactful way.
Ability to judge animals not exhibitors. It is a car dinal sin
for a judge to fail to reward a good animal with its proper
dues just because the judge doesn’t see eye to eye with the
owner. Similarly a good animal shouldn’t be placed over
an excellent animal just because the judge has a fondness
for its owner.
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 31
The Aby needs a wide, solid body. A
narrow, long body makes the rosettes look
too elongated in shape. Short and cobby
gives the wrong scrunched-up look to
rosettes and ridges. The medium body
length best displays the symmetrical shape
of its saddle and hip rosettes.
Head, Eyes, Ears, Mustache
The head is to be wide, with fair length.
This is a little different wording
than the American head where the standard
states its head should be a Roman nose,
which is a wide head too but with a blunt
nose. This is an area where Abys have
improved over the decades. Few now have
the old very large and often triangular shape
nose. Today’s Abys are much closer to the
ARBA’s wording of a wide head with fair
length. Fair length is medium, in other
words not a short, round tennis ball head
(not proper in Americans either, by the way),
nor the big triangular honker routinely
exhibited years ago.
The ears are to match the variety
description, be shapely, and slightly
drooping, but not fallen.
Abyssinian ears are basically the
same as all other breeds. The problem here
is many Abyssinians do have poorly shaped
ears and often tiny ones. As a result, they
also stick up in the air like little wings,
instead of slightly drooping as requested.
Junior Abys are notorious for having ears
sticking up in the air, but this usually
corrects by large intermediate age.
Proper Head, Eye, and Ear. Fair head furnishings.
Better head furnishing, but poor ear carriage.
coat, the ridges do not look right. What
happens is that extremely thick coat often
makes for fluffy ridges instead of the crisp
ones that look so sharp. However, lack of
density hurts in a couple ways too. Ridges
don’t want to stand up correctly. It also
results in a softer feel to the texture.
A better Aby has very good depth
to the rosettes. When an Aby has a short
coat, it does not have any depth and the
rosettes appear flat. The longer the coat
generally the better the depth, yet too long a
coat is also a disqualification. Abys having
close to the maximum allowable 1 ½ inches
have the better depth. What about Abys
with over 1 ½ and even two-inch coats and
longer? Besides being a disqualification, the
ridges just don’t stand up correctly either.
They tend to fall over and the animal looks a
bit odd.
TEXTURE – Points 15
The coat is to be harsh in texture, having a
firm feeling when ridges are patted with the
palm of the hand. Allow for softer texture in
Abyssinians have gained quality in
many areas over the years; however, the
texture has declined. The harsher coat of the
1970’s and early 1980’s is mostly gone.
There are still Abys which have good
texture, but they are more difficult to find.
Beware the dirty coat. Abys are generally
not given baths. When the coat becomes
oily and full of grit, this gives a false texture.
So, as a judge, take cleanliness into
consideration when checking texture.
To properly judge texture, just as
the standard states, pat the ridges with the
palm of the hand.
The eyes are to be large, full, bright, and
match the variety description.
Abys need the same bright, bold
eyes as all other breeds. There are no
separate points for eyes, as in some breeds.
In Aby, they count under the ten total points
on type.
COAT – Points 65:
The coat is to be dense, and of sufficient
length to form deep rosettes and ridges, but
not to exceed 1 ½ inches in length.
The standard calls for a dense coat.
Ironically, when the Aby has a ‘very’ dense
Properly posed Abyssinian, Best of Breed at 2002 ARBA Convention
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 32
Guttered, Misplaced Rump Rosettes
Proper Saddle Rosettes are pinpoint, evenly
spaced, and all in a row. Distance from collar
and rump ridge is also equidistant.
Proper Rump Rosettes are pinpoint and evenly
spaced apart. This picture also exhibits proper ridges.
ROSETTES – Points 25
Each rosette should rise and radiate evenly from a pin point center.
Rosettes should be placed as follows: one on each shoulder (2), four
saddle, two hip, and two rump rosettes.
Saddle rosettes should be placed two on each side, in line with one
another, and equidistant between the collar and the rump ridge.
Shoulder rosettes should be placed just above each foreleg and
below the collar.
Hip rosettes should be placed on each hip, behind the rump ridge,
and radiate evenly to create a round appearance.
Rump rosettes should be placed high enough on the rump, and far
enough apart on each side of the spine to prevent guttering and
form an erect ridge around each rosette.
Other rosettes may be present on the nose, belly, and high on the
shoulder, in front of the collar. However, any extra rosettes or
parts of rosettes, which interfere with the specified pattern of
rosettes and ridges should be faulted.
The rosettes should be as pin point as possible, with the
coat evenly radiating away from the center. Guttered rosettes
Proper hip rosettes are pinpoint and centered in the middle of the triangle
formed by ridges. This one pictured is well-placed but open centered.
(where the hairs in the center are jumbled) are to be faulted. Open,
elongated, and double centers are to be faulted too. Then there are
doubles and extra rosettes that may ruin the required pattern. These
are major faults.
For saddle rosettes, the standard requires four required
rosettes running exactly in a straight line right down the middle of
the saddle, with that line evenly spaced between the collar and rump
ridges. Now if one is out of line a little, this is a fault, but not the
end of the world. Consider it more major if they are obviously well
back out-of-line or zigzagged (one forward, one back, next one
forward…). The whole row of rosettes may be lined-up too far
forward or back as well, and thus should be faulted too. When they
are too far back, for example, it looks like the rosettes are pushing
up under the rump ridge and this spoils the symmetrical pattern of
the rosettes and ridges.
The two shoulder rosettes are of least importance as far as
the judging of rosettes goes. Usually Abys have these. Judges need
to check to see they are present, but their form isn’t so important
like the required eight rosettes. Missing one or both shoulder
rosettes is a fault, not a disqualification. When they should be more
seriously considered is when the class is very close in quality,
especially for breed/variety honors.
Hip rosettes do need to be pinpoint (mor e difficult to
find truly pinpoint centers on hips then the saddle). The centers
should be right in the middle of the triangle formed by ridges
surrounding this rosette. The ideal Aby’s hip rosettes will also be at
the same level off the ground as side saddle rosettes. Many times
the hip rosettes are placed too low or they are too far forward and
the center is right up next to the rump ridge. Again, this spoils the
symmetrical look of a top-quality Aby.
Of all the rosettes, rump rosettes are the most difficult to
find truly pinpoint well-placed centers. Often rump rosettes are too
close together (pinching the back ridge), or too low or too high or
one up other down… Rump rosettes are most likely to be guttered,
elongated, or even elongated to an extreme there is not recognizable
centers but runs going up toward the rump ridge. Rump rosettes are
best placed about the midpoint between the top of the rump ridge
and the tailbone (yes, cavies have tailbones) with plenty of distance
between the two centers. The best Abys will likely have pinpoint
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 33
The rump ridge and collar need to be straight, well-formed with a stiff, dense coat that goes all the way down to the body right to the floor. The pictured Aby
exhibits excellent placement of ridges as well as alignment of rosettes, all working together to create a pleasant symmetrical pattern.
rump rosettes.
The standard states other rosettes are allowable. However,
the standard also adds in a clause saying these extras should not
interfere with the set pattern of what is expected. Nose rosettes are
a good example of what compliment the look of a fine Aby. When
an Aby has two well-formed nose rosettes (one on either side of the
tip of the nose), it is just the cutest thing (no points on ‘cuteness’ but
it sure doesn’t hurt…). These pigs usually have better head
furnishings too. Nose rosettes do not interfere with any of the other
rosettes or ridges. For the most part, extra rosettes anywhere else on
the body do detract from the pattern of required rosettes and ridges.
Some extras are within the ridges and these split the ridge into two.
Double saddle and double hip rosettes also detract from appearance.
RIDGES – Points 20
Each rosette should be separated from the next rosette by an erect
ridge of hair. There should be clear, straight ridges running
around the shoulders (collar), down the spine (back ridge), across
the hips (rump ridge), and separating each saddle, hip, and rump
When to Breed Your Show Abyssinians
Soap Box: Per sonally, I r ar ely show an Aby over 1 ½ year s of
age (seldom over ten months for that matter). Why? Because if the
animal is this nice, it needs to be at home in breeding! It needs to
be creating the next generation of winners, not out on the show table
attempting to win its ‘umpteenth’ leg. Besides this, their rosettes
and ridges just do not hold up forever. So please understand when a
former Best in Show winner doesn’t fare well on the table anymore.
One example of this ‘breed vs. show,’ I have had a number
of Abys win breed at conventions, put in breeding upon returning
home, then have their offspring win breed again at the next
convention. If I had kept showing them, I would have lost all future
generations of winners which were born.
Breed thy Abys! Legs are just paper. Trophies and
rosette. The coat should rise sharply from the center of each rosette
to the top of the ridges without any flattening.
The goal in breeding for ridges is for them all to be clear
(crisp), straight, forming an even symmetrical pattern with the
rosettes, and have excellent depth with no hint of flatness anywhere
on the coat. The ideal proportions are for the head/shoulders to
form a third of the animal, saddle to form a third, and the rump to
form the final third. Looking down from above, the saddle and
rump rosettes/ridges should form a generous ‘H’ pattern. The ridges
are to compliment the rosette pattern. They work together to form
the magical look of the Abyssinian. This is why the ARBA is
considering making rosettes and ridges each worth twenty-five
points instead of just twenty for ridges. The revision is due to take
effect in the 2011-2015 ARBA Standard of Perfection.
Ridges and creativity go hand-in-hand, but not in a good
way. We call such creativity ‘faults.’ Swirls are a no-no. Runs are
a no-no. Flat spots are a no-no. Fluffiness is a no-no. Zigzags are a
no-no. Was it mentioned swirls are a no-no? Split ridges are a nono. Anything short of perfection is likely caused by a no-no. This
ribbons look nice, and they are great dust collectors. But each new
generation is what keeps the breeding program thriving, what keeps
me going back to more and more shows.
So when is the best time to breed show Abys? When they
are old enough and you know in your heart they belong there. It is
all right to sacrifice the next couple shows’ ribbons and sweepstakes
points for the future of your breeding program. I am very guarded
with my Aby sows, especially, and rarely show them. If they are
this nice, they need to be in breeding making more of themselves,
not wasted on the show table for months on end. No ribbon, no
boat-load of sweepstakes points can replace the loss of what may
become the cornerstone of my breeding program.
Breed thy Abyssinians!
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 34
Robert Spitzer
In this picture the back ridge has an improper zigzag between the rump rosettes.
This picture shows a split collar, a
fault that literally forms two collars.
The back ridge should not have any dips, and needs to stand straight and
erect from the nose, over the mane, and down the spine to the tailbone.
wide-variety of faults is what makes the Abyssinian breed more
challenging to exhibit than most.
The collar needs to be well-formed with an erect ridge
running from the one shoulder up over the crown and down the
other side. The best collars run down to the floor on both sides and
not generously curving up under the saddle rosettes. The most
common collar fault is a run up over the crown, which disrupts the
back ridge and mane too. A common problem many fail to
recognize is the split collar. This is where there are two collars, the
main one, and then a kind-of secondary one running parallel
between it and the ears. When it is most noticeable is when the Aby
turns its head causing the split in the collar to appear, occasionally
even a double split. This gives an unsightly look and also weakens
the form of the main collar.
The rump ridge runs from the hips up over the top of the
back. The most common problem here is swirls, which ruin the
straight line of the rump ridge and often causes it to zig-zag across
the back. Another common fault is the rump ridge curving up under
the saddle rosettes instead of going straight down to the ground.
Other issues include flatness over the back, missing segments to the
ridge, and runs which push part of the rump ridge backward or
forward. The rump ridge needs to be one straight, solid line running
from as far down
possible up over
the back and
straight down the
other side.
mane and back
ridge r uns fr om
the nose on up
the crown, over
and along the top
of the backbone
and down over
the rump to the
wellSwirls in the rump ridge cause the ridge to zigzag
across the rump. The rump ridge lays over the hip, formed and stand
hiding the hip rosette from view. A partially covered up as straight as
rosette is a fault. A missing one is a disqualification.
possible. Common problems here include flat spots and dips. I
often see a dip in the back ridge over the saddle between the rosettes
there. Walking the pig may help the dip disappear a little, but the
best back ridge stands-up on its own. One problem often ignored is
between the two rump rosettes. At this point, more and more Abys
are showing-up with a little zigzag pattern in the ridge there.
There are also a series of secondary ridges separating each
rosette. For example, there are ridges running between each hip and
rump rosette as well as between each side and upper saddle rosette.
These need to be well-formed and stand up straight too. If these do
not, the rosettes appear to be flat in appearance and lacking depth.
Where these secondary ridges meet the rump ridge is where the
worst swirling often appears. Again, these swirls take away from
the crisp appearance and form of the rump ridge.
The coat on the head of an Abyssinian should form a well developed
mustache around the nose and an erect mane rising between the
ears to the collar.
Head furnishings are often ignored in the breeding pen
because they do not concern the eight basic required rosettes or the
ridges. However, head furnishings complete the appearance of a
very good Aby and it is worth five points. As stated previously,
those with nose rosettes often have better head furnishings. The
breeder should not ignore the head furnishings. The Aby needs a
well-pronounced mustache with accompanying prominent
furnishings that run underneath the eye and up each side of the
COLOR – Points 15:
The color is to match the variety description. In Marked varieties,
color points are to be divided equally – ½ the points to color quality
and ½ the points to markings.
After rosettes and ridges, color is the most important
category with fifteen points. So, judges and breeders should not
ignore color.
Bottom line, color does matter on the Aby. It is fifteen
points that needs to be counted when selecting class order and
breed/variety picks. When two animals are fairly even on rosettes
and ridges, then color may well become the deciding factor.
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 35
Does Color Variety Affect Quality of
Rosette Centers?
giving it that look.
To give an extreme example, I was judging the ACBA
Specialty and had an Aby Satin Cream on the table. First glance,
the centers were as big as dimes! Upon much closer inspections,
Most Abys are brindles or one of the roan colors: tri roan, blue roan, the rosettes did have hair all the way to reasonably pinpoint centers.
red roan, etc. Brindles and tri roans are natural pairings for
I sure hated the look of the animal, and I fully understand judges
breeding. The intermixing of the colors also helps show-off the
docking points, but I am making the point that as a judge I try to
pinpoint centers (especially true of roans). This is likely why more make the effort to look closely at the centers to see for sure. This
brindles and roans are shown than the other varieties. I have shown isn’t just true in satin creams, but also to a lesser extent in all many
many color varieties over the years, but on most of these judges
varieties. I have had judge after judge complain my blacks are open
have complained bitterly about the open-centered look. This is
centered, yet verbally gush over pinpoint centers on their littermate
especially true on dilute varieties. These have light-colored skin
blue roans. So, are blacks genetically predisposed to having more
which just radiates light through the center and gives an openopen centers than their blue roan littermates? I am not convinced of
centered look to it. I see the problem on roans, too, where the skin this. This is why I choose to look a bit closer to check on these
under the rosette is pale or pink. Those centers usually appear more varieties.
open than the dark-skinned centers. Now this is on the same pig!
Robert Spitzer
This is why I try to remember to look closely at the centers to see if
they really are open (missing hair) or if it is the illusion of light skin
CONDITION – Points 10:
The coat is to be close and thick. The Abyssinian is to be firm
redeeming about the animals, that the judge hated ‘all’ the Abys,
and the owner might as well go home and pet shop the entire lot.
No, no, no! This does more damage than good. Exhibitors often
hear their pigs are pretty bad…and then the judge says afterwards
the Abys at the show were quite good! So which is it?
Unfortunately, this is the nature of judging the Abyssinian breed.
We see the negative, point it out, and then the positive goes
unrewarded. Thus, the owners do not hear comments that would
confirm the value of animals to their breeding program.
Request to judges: Tr y to also comment on the positive
too. Often there is much value to an animal and the exhibitor needs
to be educated on this side too.
There are only ten points on condition. However, condition
affects many other parts of the Aby which are worth considerable
points. Poor coat condition results in a fluffy or scruffy look and
ridges do not stand up quite right because of it. Body condition
affects the look of the animal too, not just feel. The result of a wellconditioned pig is a better-looking Aby with bright eyes, crisp
ridges that stand up well, and luster to the coat (not sheen, as that is DISQUALIFICATIONS FROM COMPETITION
Coat over 1 ½ inches in length; less than eight clear rosettes (4
saddle, 2 hip, 2 rump – a double rosette counts as one toward the
total.); satin sheen – not to be confused with the natural luster of
Double, split, swirled, guttered, misplaced and/or open centered some colors.
rosettes; extra rosettes or parts of rosettes which interrupt the
specified pattern; flatness of coat over the shoulders or back;
The most recent change in this list is the disqualification of
crooked ridges; soft texture; coat too short.
a missing rosette. Two doubles or an extra rosette somewhere do
not equal one missing saddle, hip, or rump rosette. If an animal is
In most breeds, the judge must find the most faults by feel. missing one or more of the required eight rosettes, it is still a
In Abyssinians, the vast majority of faults are visual ones. There is disqualification even if there are plenty of extras on the pig
often so much to comment about, the judge may give exhibitors the somewhere. The standard states less than eight clear rosettes is a
appearance of ‘nothing good’ to say about their Abys. What disqualification. Clear means the judge is not required to hunt to
happens is judges state the faults they see, and on some animals find it. However, when in doubt, the standard does state ‘benefit of
there is a lot to see! This gives the impression there is nothing the doubt’ may be used.
Cleanliness and Bathing Show Abys
Some older boars have over-active oil glands and the animal
becomes very icky feeling, and this grease is what traps all the finer
shavings and dust in the coat. Clean this gland by massaging in
Dawn dishwashing liquid, let it set a couple minutes, then rinsing
well. This may need to be repeated two or three times.
What is the secret to a keeping an Aby clean? A clean
cage. A clean oil gland. Hold them in clean hands. But of utmost
importance is a clean, clean, clean, a very clean…cage! It should be
a rare Aby you need to bathe. And beware, that when you do bathe
it, its show prospects likely just got destroyed for awhile. It will
take time to recover from the bath.
OH, MY...
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 36
Satin sheen
is a disqualification
because this means
entered in the
carrier is not a
disqualification. In
carriers had a ‘little
what they were
natural luster of a
healthy coat. Do not
mistake this luster
After checking for disqualifications, judges should
for satin sheen.
set the Aby down and straighten its ridges again.
more at risk than most breeds for polydactyl toes (extra toes,
normally found on back feet) and extra teats. These two
disqualifications are not noted under Abyssinian disqualifications
because they are listed with General Disqualifications From
Competition, All Breeds on page 220. Polydactyl toes are easy to
see when turning the pig over to check its sex. Extra teats take a
little more investigative work. Check the belly for these and even
flip through the belly coat if suspecting something doesn’t look
quite right. On rare occasions the animal (true of any breed) may
have three or four or even five extra teats! On Abys, there will
likely be a bald spot where a future generation may have an extra
teat. The ARBA Standard states bare spot or spots where there
should be hair is a disqualification too.
Age definitely makes a difference to an Abyssinian. Age
affects texture, depth, how crisp ridges are, and even cleanliness.
Small junior Abys are often at a disadvantage to older
animals in a couple areas. First, they usually have very softer coats.
The standard does say to give allowance for this in juniors. Also, as
juniors shed out their baby coat and the adult coat is growing in,
they may have poor depth to their rosettes. Quality of rosettes,
ridges, color, body, etc. are identifiable, but it will be fault heavily
for lack of depth to the rosettes. The more mature junior will have
its adult coat mostly grown in, thus better texture and depth.
Large junior to small intermediate size is a strange age for
Extra teats are a disqualification. These are more common on Abyssinians
than most breeds. The pictured Peruvian had five extras. Three are pictured.
Abys. Breeders call this age the ‘uglies.’ Their bodies and heads are
growing longer and/or wider, and this results in rosettes and ridges
moving around some. The ridges flatten out and then move a bit,
swirls may appear in the ridges. Rosettes do funny things too, and
the centers may not look quite right for a time.
In the opinion of this author, mid-intermediate to young
senior Abys is the prime show age show for this breed (on average,
again, just author’s opinion based on many years experience). At
this age their coats are mature. The bodies become close to the
finished adult proportions, depth to the rosettes is at its best, and the
coat is relatively clean with its natural luster.
The seniors in most breeds have the advantage of age and
size. This is not usually an advantage for the Abyssinian where
juniors and intermediates are quite competitive. The older coat
becomes ‘fluffy,’ is probably the best way to put it. The older coat
become lifeless with dead hair that needs to shed out, and the ridges
tend to ‘fluff-up.’ As a result, ridges on an older Aby just do not
maintain the crisp, clean look of their youth. Rosette centers open
up too, and so they lack the fine, pinpoint centers needed to win
higher awards. The coats are often more soiled too with grease and
grit. Giving an Aby a bath a few days before a show really trashes
the coat. The bath strips the coat of natural oils it needs for that
healthy look and destroys the ridges.
Abyssinian Age and Change
condition of younger ones, ridges becoming fluffy and
disorganized. I know…many breeders have had exceptions,
geriatric anomalies which win when they are ‘ancient.’ I have had
If Abys change so much from birth to intermediate to senior, how
do breeders go about culling and does this affect judges’ comments? these ‘aged wonders’ too, but it is rare. Interesting thing, I find
As a breeder, I try to memorize their ‘look’ of when born. brindle seniors hold their show quality longer than my roans and
Usually they will return to this quality of rosettes and ridges by the other varieties. I don’t know why, but I have seen this many times.
Again, judges cannot consider how they think the animal
time they have matured. I can be patient and wait.
looked months or even years earlier, how what they saw
However, judges must based their decisions on what they
show. I have won with all ages from that barely legal
have in front of them at that moment, not what they think the animal
young ‘un to an occasional one of more advanced age
will be mature to be at a future date. I often hear judges say
boar). As a judge I select breed/variety from all
‘promising’ to young ones of all breeds they feel will mature well.
after all awards have been handed out, I
Basically, an old Aby does look ‘old’ to me, and I often
have had a number of people tell me the age of some of their pigs.
comment on this at shows. The eyes and eye lids have a different
look about them. Older animals just do not have the body and coat
Robert Spitzer
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 37
How to Purchase Abyssinians for Your
by Robert Spitzer
A Breeding Program
For those who want a creative breeding challenge, try the Clown
Prince of the cavy breeds, the Abyssinian.
Having raised Abyssinians since the early 1970’s, I have
seen the rise and fall in activity in this breed. I heard it predicted
that the popularity of the Abyssinian Satin would replace the
Abyssinian, and that it would all but vanish from the show table.
This has not happened. In fact there is much renewed interest in
this old breed. Often at conventions, the Abyssinian numbers are
often in the top three breeds.
The Abyssinian would be even more popular if it were not
for the bad press given it. I often hear, "Oh, don’t buy Abyssinians,
they’re too hard to raise,” or, "I don’t like Abys because they won’t
sit still, they're too noisy, they’re obnoxious...the last one I owned
went and...” Those who do faithfully raise this breed do so for the
Abyssinian’s creative personality and its breeding challenge. I have
to admit Abyssinians, regular and satin, are like hyperactive
children, the only breeds routinely encouraged to run up and down
the show table to best show their finer points. These guys are
literally little clowns. This is what draws me to them.
They are not born like little clones, as each one is different.
Being incredibly horny, Abyssinians breed like flies, providing a
At birth when the baby coat is first dry, I know if this may be a
promising show animal or not. Every batch born is like a present
waiting to be opened because at times I really do not know what
will be born.
Much of the difficulty in breeding show quality
Abyssinians actually comes in the purchase of stock. I hope to
provide some helpful tips for the new breeder.
The best place to start looking for stock is the established
breeder. This person has a working gene pool proven in the pens
and on the show table. The breeder may also offer the best advice
as to how to breed the stock you are obtaining. Every now and then
I talk to someone who says, "Look at what I found at the pet store!
What a steal for only $32.50 plus tax!” However, the animal was at
the pet store for a reason, probably not a very good one either. The
animal could be there for genetic deficiencies such as extra teats,
size, breeding problems, or other reasons that only the original seller
knows. This is part of my point. The breeder can assist in
instructing what best to breed their animal with and may guide you
toward stock that will complement it.
In Abyssinians, it is important to not breed weakness to
weakness; rather, breed strength to weakness, otherwise you are
perpetuating faults and creating a worse problem which will be
harder to breed out later. So buy stock that has matching faults and
does not have the fault your breeders already have.
Do not expect to buy the perfect Abyssinian. I commonly
have possible buyers come up and say, "I want to buy a really nice
one.” Then they go on to describe such a quality that I do not often
even see at a national convention. Buyers must be aware, especially
in Abyssinians, the breeders must keep the best because not many
perfect ones are ever born. A breeder especially cannot not sell
their top sows.
The boar is the most important.
Several breeding sows may be in with the
one boar. The best quality is vital because
so many genes are being passed on from
that one animal to your future breeding
program. Since fewer boars are needed, it
is easier to purchase a quality boar, thus
breeders are more willing to part with one of these. Again,
remember that the breeder cannot give up their very best, so don’t
expect to buy it. You will have to breed your own, just like they
For breeding sows, try to purchase ones related to the boar
you are going to use. Crossing totally unrelated lines many times
does not work for the first generation. Surprisingly, the babies may
actually be rather poor; however, breeding the daughters back to the
father will likely provide the quality expected. Father/daughter
breedings are often quite successful in Abys. The sows you
purchase will also probably not be the quality of the boar. Again,
the breeder must keep the best for themselves.
Realize, though, you are purchasing a gene pool, not Best
in Show animals. This is especially true in Abyssinians.
Don’t show the stock you buy, especially the sows. Go
home, put them in breeding when the age and size is right, and show
the babies. Road trips and shows weaken the sows, and they are
more likely to die during pregnancy as a result.
It is all right to buy an Abyssinian which has a double,
even on a boar. Currently, a couple of my best breeding boars have
doubles. A few of my sows do too. It does not stop them from
being fine breeders. Again, you breed strength to weakness, and so
don’t breed two together with double rosettes. In the early eighties,
I exhibited a beautiful Aby brindle boar that had a double on his
saddle. He still won five Best in Shows. Yet it is very common to
have prospective buyers turn down an excellent prospective
breeding animal just because it has this fault. Years ago I bought a
blue roan boar from a very respected Aby breeder. This animal not
only had a double, but also two other faults I consider very serious.
Most, including me, would have pet shopped this boar. I bought
him sight unseen and was leery how he would work in my breeding
pens; however, I did keep in mind his solid genetic background.
Well, his son took Best of Breed at the 1995 California State
Convention and went on to take several other Best of Breeds. This
reinforced in my mind the importance of buying into a strong gene
Properly Posed, Best Reserve in Show at 2003 ARBA Convention
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 38
pool, even if the boar or sow is nowhere near perfect. It is not is helpful to quietly inform the breeder of your findings, as they may
uncommon for these Abys to throw babies much better than not be aware there is a problem within their herd. Then they can go
home and look into it concerning their own stock.
Other genetic disqualifications to check are extra toes, the
mouth for good teeth, and the eyes for spots.
There are several traits I do try to stay away from buying.
The worst of these is probably a flat coat. Perfect ridges are
difficult to produce and buying ones with flat coats or horribly
twisted ridges and/or swirls just do not help. Having a bad run in the
collar or rump ridge will inevitably cause problems too. Another
trait to avoid is bad twists or runs in the centers of the rosettes. I at
least try to buy an animal that does not have poor centers in the
exact rosettes I already have problems with. This only perpetuates
my problem. Texture is difficult to achieve also. If the coat you are
buying is very soft for its age, think twice about buying it.
Basically if the animal has a couple of faults, it may still be
well worth buying, especially if the faults are not a problem in your
own line. However, make sure this animal has strengths you need.
I buy parts of a breeding program. There are times I buy an animal
purely for the pinpoint centers or strong ridges. Then I breed it to
one that has the strengths it lacks. This is what I did to the heavily
faulted blue roan Aby mentioned previously.
Beware of buying pigs with genetic disqualifications. One
of the most common ones in the Abyssinian is extra teats. Many
times this cannot be seen by just turning the pig over. You must
ruffle the hair since it may lie over the teat. Usually this is easy to
find since a bald spot surrounds it. Beware of a plain bald spot as
well, since these end up becoming extra teats in a couple
generations. The gene for extra teats seems to be recessive (my
personal opinion, no scientific studies done to confirm it). This
means it can remain a hidden trait for several generations, and so
these cavies should be removed from breeding for good. What if
you find an extra teat while evaluating someone’s sale animals? It
What about buying animals judges either did or did not like
on the show table? While one should listen to judges (I am one and
I appreciate people listening to me now and then…), if I removed
every Aby from my house that a judge said negative remarks about,
I would not have much left. Abys are very easy to nitpick. A judge
may say several remarks, giving the impression it is a bad animal,
yet actually feel the cavy is quite nice. This has happened to me a
number of times concerning some of my finest. Two judges I
highly, did not sound like they liked one of my top boars. In fact, it
sounded to me like they totally hated it! My heart sank, as I was
very proud of this Aby. Yet when asked later, they both thought the
boar was very good. This is the way Abys are. It is so easy to see
the smallest faults and comment, and this is why it has been so
challenging for even top quality ones to win Best in Shows. Judges
have cost me more than a few sales for this very reason. The
prospective buyer hears two or three comments and thinks...This
guy is ripping me off! The judge hates this pig! No way I am buying
it now. Meanwhile, I know the animals will make a very good
breeder for them. The judge would likely confirm this if asked.
Very frustrating. My solution? I mostly quit showing what I intend
to sell.
So who should breed Abyssinians? Everyone! The
Abyssinian will provide a welcome challenge to the serious breeder
and exhibitor, all the while giving entertainment with its energetic
and clown-like personality.
Abyssinian Breeders
Devon Bean
Brittany Bellows
Mary Anne & Al Chmura
Randdee Cram
Vic, Becky, Allison Dubbink
Brooke Gallagher
Mike Ginder
Suzette Glave
Jahcqui Guardiola
Tracy Iverson
Shelly Kohr
Dana Kolstad
Russ Lash
Linda Loucks
Samantha Marlin
Tara McParland
James Nielsen
Tim Patty
Darcy Pierce
Amanda Scannell
Sheila Schwartz-Zych
Robert Spitzer
Alex Svigel
Dawn Turner
Richard Vaerewyck
Karen Waite
Gloria Wilson
Jelly Bean Cavies
Clermont Cavies
Cram Cavies
Rebason Cavies
Pig Squeeks Caviary
J & J Caviary
Cavy Cargo
Guardiola's Guinea Pigs
Iverson’s Cavies
Oneisnotenough Caviary
Red Star Caviary
Cavalcade Cavies
Buena Park
Lehigh Acres
Cottage Grove
Morgan Hill
Oklahoma City
Hopewell Junction
Roan, Black, Brindle, Broken
Rainbow, Dalmatian
Brindle, Roan, TSW
Self, Brindle, Roan, Marked
Roan, Brindle, Agouti, Marked, Self
Brindle, Roan, Self
Roan, Brindle, Marked
Brindle, Roan, Self
Agouti, Self, Marked, Tan
Black, Red, Brindle, Roans
Roan, Brindle, TSW, GA
Black, Roan, Brindle
Brindle, Roan
Brindle, Roan
Black, Roan, Brindle
Roan, GA, Self, Tan
Brindle, Roan
Brindle, Roan
Roan, Brindle, Agouti
Brindle, Roan, TSW, Red
Brindle, Roan
Roan, Brindle, Self
Marked, Roan, Brindle, Self
Roan, Brindle, Self, GA
Brindle, Golden Agouti
Brindle, Roan
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
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[email protected]
[email protected]
d[email protected]
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[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Kar Mar Cavies
Tara's Cavy Cave
Nielsen Family Cavies
Squealing Kiddos Caviary
Bouncey Bunnies & Cavies
Abby Cavy Cave
Lightshine Caviary
All Star Cavies
Richard's Pig Pen
GloWell Caviary
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 39
Developing the Dalmatian Abyssinian
by Brittany Bellows
In April 2005, I decided to throw sanity to the wind and attempt the
develop the Dalmatian color in the Abyssinian breed. I am no
stranger to challenging colors in the Aby breed having raised TSW
Abys since 2001. I also raise Lilac/Cream/White and rainbow Abys,
and so I knew the Dal color was going to be a challenge going in.
I started my Dalmatian herd with a single Ameryssinian
(Aby x Am) sow. Shortly after getting the sow, I also got a trio of
Dalmatian Americans and a pair of Black Abys not directly out of
Roans. Some of you might be thinking “isn't a black a black? Why
does it matter if they are out of roans
or not?” Selfs out of roans carry
modifier genes for good roaning.
Exactly the thing you don't want when
trying to breed for good spots. That
has been one of the largest challenges
with the Dal color. Finding good
outside animals to bring into the herd
that aren't going to mess up the
spotting with roan modifiers.
Flashing back to 2005, I bred
my Dal Americans to my Black Abys
and my F1 litters were born. Because many Americans carry genes
for coat faults, which are a similar genes to what causes the rosettes
on Abys, I got a surprising number of decent animals in my F1
breedings. The rosettes were junk, all over the place, and the ridges
were flat, BUT a large number of the animals had all their rosettes,
and that was what I needed to move forward.
I bred the F1 animals to Abys and got my F2 generation.
My F2 generation actually had some animals I could put on the
show table. They didn't stand a chance at beating my other marked
animals, but I liked putting them on the table to show they were out
Judges’ comments have been interesting over the years.
Some flat out didn't know what they were and wanted to move them
from the Marked class to the roan class and then disqualify them for
being a spotty roan. Some would say things like “this looks like a
Dal” but in a disbelieving way as it just couldn't be what they were
seeing. I had to break the rules on occasion and actually explain to
the judge that, yes, they were a Dalmatian Aby; yes, they are a work
in progress; and, no, I didn't expect it to win anything that day.
Some judges said I must enjoy torture to want to breed Dal Abys.
Most judges were excited to see this new color on the table, and
most have given me encouragement.
My F2 and F3 generations began loosing spot quality due
to the pesky roan modifier that was now a couple generations in. I
made the choice to breed my F1 and F2 animals to the F3 animals to
try and lock in the spots a little better and
hopefully not loose rosette quality. The first
half of the plan worked very well and I was
able to get a number of babies born with
good spotting, however the rosette
advancement pretty much ground to a halt.
For the most part the rosettes didn't get any
worse, but they didn't get any better either. I
found my self in a strange holding pattern where babies born with
wonderful spotting were almost
Dot Com — F2 Generation
always missing a rosette. Those born
with wonderful rosettes usually had
very poor spotting. I would on
occasion have animals born with a
nice blend of rosettes and spotting;
but as Murphy's Law goes, those were
usually the animals that up and died
before three months of age.
In 2007, I started to actively
look for some outcross animals as my
herd was in danger of becoming
closely inbred with only six animals as its core foundation. Finding
animals that didn't have any roan parents was extremely difficult. It
wasn't until early 2008 that I was able to add five or six full Abys to
the herd. Since the addition of the new animals to the herd, the
progress has grown by leaps and bounds. Many of the babies now
being born have both good rosettes and good spotting. More and
more babies in the litters are keepers, and I don't have to tell the
judges what the animals are as the spots are very obvious now.
The Dalmatian color is not quite there yet. Soft coats and
other little things that are throw backs to their American heritage
still pop up from time to time. The Aby rosettes also cause
challenges with the spots, making them difficult to fully see.
Because of the rosettes, you can get a better sense of the spots when
looking straight down at the animal than when viewing them from
the side. I believe with another year of work the color will finally be
truly competitive and be able to give my other marked colors a run
for their money.
In March of 2009, almost four years after I started this
project, a Black Aby sow out of my Dal herd took 2nd Runner Up
Best In Show at the Utah State Convention show. This sow only
barely has Americans off her pedigree as her Great Grandma was
one of my original F1 animals. That win was a good anniversary
present for all the years of work on this color. With any luck, many
more wins are in store for this challenging color.
Dot Matrix — F4 Generation
Royal Flush — F4 Generation
JACBA V13 — I1 Winter - 2009 Page 40
Raising Abyssinians: The Youth’s
by Tara McParland
A Perspective
An example of one of these low
I was in the eighth grade and my third year as a member of
the FFA when I was introduced to the world of breeding and points would be when I was forced to
showing guinea pigs and rabbits. Of all the qualities and traits of discontinue my initial line of show animals
this wonderful subculture, it was the adorable nature of the animals due to multiple medical issues. It was a
themselves that sparked my interest. After much research, I arrived wonderful local breeder that agreed to get
at the conclusion I wanted to undertake this challenge; I wanted to the stock I would need to start a second line.
It was this kindness that led to my early
become a guinea pig breeder.
Informing my parents of this wish was an entirely different success; it was the line I started from the
matter, however. It was far from a sure thing, as I had no idea how stock animals she acquired which led to my win of Best of Breed at
my first national convention the
they would respond to this
following year.
somewhat strange request. I posed
It has been more than five years
the question without being able to
since those first two junior sows, but
predict their answer, but I was
even after all the high and low
hopeful in my parents' judgment
points, all the wonders and
that I was both mature and
disappointments that I've been
responsible enough to pursue such
fortunate enough to experience, it is
an endeavor. It was not without
still an understatement to classify
some early resistance, but my
breeding and showing Abyssinians
parents granted their permission.
as merely a challenge. The steps
With this approval, I was ready to
required to bring about a successful
take my first steps.
breeding range from judging the
When the time came to
openness of the centers to the length
choose my first guinea pigs, it was
Tara’s 2006 ARBA Convention Best of Breed, Abyssinian.
of the hair, to the pedigrees to
the Abyssinians which first grabbed
ensure they have excellent genetics
my attention. Their wonderful
and to categorize the varieties to
personalities along with the relative
ease of grooming in comparison to
combinations for the babies. It may
the breeds with longer hair created
be a challenge to provide the ideal
the perfect match between breeder
environment for a successful litter,
and show animals I felt would lead
but that will not guarantee a showto success. It was with this in mind
quality animal. To use a cliché, you
that I selected my first two show
win some and you lose some. You
animals, an Abyssinian roan and a
can only hope you are up to the
Satin Abyssinian roan; two junior
challenge and the hard work that
sows which were the foundation of
goes into successful breeding will
my initial line of guinea pigs.
pay off. It should go without saying
It must be mentioned that I
Tara’s 2007 ARBA Convention Best of Breed, Abyssinian Satin.
it is more than worth it.
would never have succeeded as a
breeder without two local
Tara with Jahcqui Guardiola
breeders that provided both
mentoring I needed to
knowledge and experience
that has been an integral
part of every high point
that my guinea pigs and I
have experienced. It was
the kindness and patience
that I was shown from
other breeders that instilled
fueled my confidence and
desire to continue through
each and every one of the
low points.
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 41
Roan and Brindle Cavy Genetics
by Harry Claus
Because roan and brindle are the most common Abyssinian colors, we
are reprinting Harry Claus’s articles on these varieties from his book
Cavy Genetics. This book is printed and sold by the ACBA. See page
50 for details. What has always been a mystery to me is why
Abyssinian brindles often have quality intermixing, yet some other
breeds rarely do. - Editor
The roans being shown at the present time are all heterozygous at
the roan spotting and anophthalmos locus (Rs rs). They could have
a white blaze and various amounts of roaning on the body with little
or no roaning on the cheeks or feet.
The usual breeding procedure is to breed roan to non-roan
giving you 50% roans and 50% non-roans. There is a common
misconception that these non-roans are “roan carriers.” This is
incorrect. These are no more roan than animals with several
generations of pure non-roan in the pedigree.
When roans are bred together, you can expect 25% to be
non-roan, 50% roans and 25% to be sickly-looking whites, blind or
at least with severe eye problems and usually tooth problems.
These boars are usually sterile, but when they are not, they give you
100% healthy roans, no matter what they are bred to.
Dalmatians are roans with spotting in the roan areas of
their coat. I tried for three years to figure out the difference with
little success. When a roan and a Dalmatian are bred together, you
get the 1:2:1 assortment that you get with the pair of roans. This
shows that they are both products of the roan locus. Dalmatians,
showing that the condition is under genetic control, but I wasn’t
able to show what other genes had to be present to change a roan
into a Dalmatian. I suspect that more than two are necessary.
are white.
When you breed chocolate to
chocolate (real chocolates, no bittersweets),
you get animals with roaning, partially
pigmented hairs (beige or white under
color) and light chocolate surface color.
Good chocolates are double heterozygotes
(Ccx Pp). Good chocolate roans would have
to be triple heterozygotes (Ccx Pp Rs rs). You would have to
establish a good breeding colony of chocolates by chocolate x
extremely pale beige (crca pp) matings, get good chocolates, transfer
the roan gene (Rs) to them, breed those roans to the pale beiges until
you got good dark chocolate roans and then continue breeding to the
extremely pale beiges. This would be a good exercise in genetics,
Mendelian assortment and mathematical probability. If this seems a
little complicated, it is because it is.
This is why some exhibitors show silver agouti dilutes as
“bittersweet chocolates.” It takes no effort whatsoever to produce
Question: I am finding r oans popping out of cavies that neither
parent shows roaning. Is it possible to have a roan “carrier”?
Answer: Whites and Himalayans could possess the r oan gene
(Rs). When bred to a colored animal, ½ of their colored offspring
would be roans. Also, there is a recessive silvering gene (si) that
would cause roaning when a pair of them got together in the same
animal. These would not look like our present day show roans
however, and I doubt if this is the case.
Heather Bondra’s Mr. Wonderful
The white spotting gene (s) determines whether an epep
cavy is a tortoiseshell or a brindle. Cavies that are enomozygous
non-spotted (SS) would be brindles. Those that are homozygous
white spotting (ss) would be TSW’s.
A pleotropic or secondary affect of the white spotting gene
in addition to making the white spots, is to pull the red and black
into patches making a tortoiseshell. There is never much brindling
on a TSW.
The partial extension gene (ep) is incompletely dominant
over non-extension (e).
Silvering (roaning) has been studied by researchers in the
Cavies that are heterozygous (ep) with one partial
scientific community since the 1920’s. The gene (Rs) in our present extension gene and one non-extension gene (e) will usually have
day show roans was first reported by Catherine Whiteway in more red (more red spotting on the tortoiseshells, more
England in 1973. In 1975, she co-chaired a more comprehensive
Quality Brindle
Quality Roan
report with Roy Robinson in the Guinea Pig Newsletter 9: 13-16.
In 1947, Sewall Wright reported on several other types of
silvering in the guinea pig in Genetics 32, 115-141.
The silver gene (si) is recessive and when homozygous, is
very variable, from a few white hairs on the belly to completely
The grizzled gene (gr) is recessive and when homozygous,
causes progressive silvering after the animal is a few months old.
When the gene that changes golden agouti to silver agouti
(cr) gets together with non-agouti (a) and tortoise shell (eP), you get
a dark sepia with roaning. The hairs that would be red on brindle
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 42
intermingling of red hairs on the brindles). A good portion of your
epep or epe Ss would have a white foot, a few white hairs, white
blaze, etc. The ones that don’t have any white still have their red
and black pulled into patches. Also, there is so much overlapping of
genotypes that a breeding test would be required to erase any doubt.
A review of the possible genotypes and phenotypes would
be as follows:
epep SS – Brindle – usually with more black.
epe SS – Brindle – more even amounts of red and black
epep Ss – Tortoise shell with more black, possible minor
white spotting
epe Ss – Tortoise shell – more even around of red and
black, possible minor white spotting
epep ss – TSW, usually with more black
epe ss – TSW, more even amounts of red and black
ee SS – Red
ee Ss – Red, possible minor white spotting
ee ss – Red/White broken color
The intermingling of the white hairs on the coat of a roan is caused
by a dominant gene at the roan locus (Rs). Normal, non roaned
cavies have two recessive alleles at the roan locus (rs rs). Those
that are roan have on roan allele and one normal allele (rs rs).
Those with two roan alleles are white, usually blind, have
tooth problems, are sterile, and look sickly. However, one in every
7 or 8 boars will not be sterile and will be able to father 100%
healthy roans no matter what colored non-roan cavy he is bred to.
The three types of roans that are described as dark, wellmarked, and high grade are just variations of the expressions of roan
(Rs rs). Roans that are epe are better marked because a lot more red
is present. This has no effect on the amount of white.
It should be possible to acquire any array of roan modifiers
that would give you more well roaned cavies than not. If this is the
case, then any red produced should carry those same modifiers,
even though you can’t see them.
To set up a tri roan/brindle breeding program, I would
eliminate any white spotting, then breed strawberry roans to
brindles. 50% of the babies would be roans. If your brindles were
epep, they would be 50% tri-roans, 50% brindles. If your brindles
were epe, you would expect 25% reds, 25% brindles, 25%
strawberry roans, and 25% tri-roans. If you breed tri-roan to brindle
even if they are both epe, one of every four produced would be
expected to be epep with not enough red.
To set up a breeding program would not be as hard as it
might seem. Once you have all your ducks in a row, as far as the
color genes are concerned, you could concentrate on ears, type,
color intensity, etc.
Abyssinian Genetics
For a breed where it is so hard to get a top show prospect, the basic
genetics of Abyssinians are quite simple and involve 3 loci or
genes. The first locus is Rough. Ideal Abyssinians are RR and
carry 2 copies of the dominant rough gene (allele). In contrast,
Americans carry the recessive smooth allele (r) and are rr. The
second locus is long. The ideal Abyssinian carries 2 genes (alleles)
for short (LL) while Peruvians which should also be RR carry 2
recessive alleles for long (ll). The final major locus is Rough
Modifier (M) which, as the name implies, modifies the action of the
rough allele. This dominant gene suppresses the rosette forming
action of Rough. Animals which are RRMm typically have poor or
missing rosettes. Animals which are RRMM may have only a pair
of weak rosettes on the rump with push forward hair on the head
(some Peruvian breeders love the RRMM genotype!) while animals
which are RrMM may have a bit of hair reversal on the feet as the
only evidence that they carry R at all! So, for the three major loci
involved, the ideal Abyssinian should be RRLLmm (pure rough,
Of course, breeding show animals, particularly
Abyssinians, is never as simple as just dealing with the major
loci! There are a host of unstudied modifiers which may work
singly or in combination to produce the ideal rosette placement,
clean centers and good alignment which is necessary for the ideal
Abyssinian. On top of that, you have to deal with coat modifiers
which produce the desired stiff coat that makes the well placed,
centered and aligned rosettes produce the ideal ridges and mane. I
suspect that Abyssinian breeders are so fond of Roans because they
remind the breeder of all the gray hairs you get working with this
challenging breed! (I’m not that gray yet! - Editor)
Peter Herman
Lightshine Cavies
Winner of 3 ARBA Convention Best in Show s
and 4 Reserve in Shows
Abyssinian Brindle and Roan
Peruvian and Silkie Broken, TSW, Black, Blue Roan
American Self Black
Robert Spitzer
ARBA Cavy Judge #831
442 S. Cochise Ave.
Willcox, Arizona 85643
JACBA V13 — I2 Spring - 2009 Page 43
Phone: 520-384-3969
Email: [email protected]

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